Rung repeatedly told the guards to be careful with prisoners. He reminded them that Lord Prime expected certain standards to be upheld. He emphasized that he couldn't communicate with prisoners effectively if they had a concussion.
Yet here was a guard shoving a scraped and battered Deadlock into his office. The yellow and grey Decepticon brought his manacled hands in front of his helm as a shove from behind made him stumble faceplate first to the floor.
Rung's eyebrows drew down over his round red optics, giving the guards a stern look as they retreated—not that they seemed to notice. Tsking to himself, Rung pulled his Decepticon guest upright—with some effort, as Deadlock outweighed him by a considerable amount—and planted him in a chair.
"I apologize for the boorish treatment—" He snatched his hand back as the Decepticon snarled and twisted to bite at him, but Rung's tone remained calm. "You're Deadlock, is that correct? My name is Rung. I've been assigned to be your psychiatrist."
Deadlock stared at him with a blank expression, like he was waiting for a punchline. It was foolish, Rung reminded himself, to feel hurt or slighted at the lack of recognition. Of course he wouldn't remember seeing Rung. No one remembered Rung. He kept a smile on his face as Deadlock asked, predictably and sarcastically, if he turned into a ladder.
Deadlock sat tensely on the edge of his chair, glaring at Rung. It was their third session and Rung couldn't help but be anxious about the lack of progress. He had removed the Decepticon's shackles in the last session hoping to inspire some kind of reaction, positive or negative. So far nothing. Rung put on an unconcerned face and pretended to be wholly focused on painting the Autobot insignia onto a model of an Inquisitor-class warship.
He looked up and smiled as he caught Deadlock glaring at him, because eye contact was better than nothing.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" Rung said. He balanced the ship on his fingertips, beaming down at it. "It's one of the least aerodynamic ships in the fleet," he continued, "but it's also the most iconic—"
The scrape of the chair was his only warning. He looked up to see Deadlock leaping towards him, silent and grim. Rung closed his optics and went limp to rob the blow of its impact. Still, Deadlock's fist caught him under his chin with enough force to lift the skinny maroon bot out of his chair.
It was more than enough to trigger Rung's self-defense mods.
Electricity crackled over the entirety Rung's frame as soon as Deadlock connected. It hurt. It always hurt. But it always hurt Rung's assailant more than himself.
For a split second Deadlock stared at him with wide blue optics, gaping foolishly as lightning crawled up his arm; one of his eyes blew out as he collapsed onto the desk. So Deadlock didn't get to see Rung's magnificent, cacophonous crash into the cabinet. It teetered, sending paperwork, glue, and brushes raining down on him. Something sticky poured down Rung's head, rolling over his shoulders and down his chest. Model paint. He scraped it away with his hands.
After his frame stopped prickling he picked out a rag from the cabinet, wiped his servos, and rolled Deadlock off the desk. With a regretful half-smile he swept the Inquisitor, the most feared and heavily armed ship in the Autobot army, into the garbage bin; it had proved no match for the weight of an unconscious Decepticon landing on it. Rung reached for his comm.
"I need someone to transfer a prisoner back to his cell. Not Shock or Ore, please, I'd prefer someone who won't leave him worse than they found him."
"Sure thing, Ring!" Swerve's voice chirped over the comm. "Err—what room are you in again?"
Rung's fingers slowly curled into fists as he told him.
Rung did not request medical care for Deadlock's cracked optic and apparently no one else did either because it was still nonfunctional when the next session rolled around. Rung felt a twinge of guilt at the sight but, he reminded himself, it was Deadlock's own fault for attacking him. And that model ship had taken two weeks to assemble.
"I'm afraid our previous session was cut short," Rung said comfortably. "But we've learned something about each other, haven't we?"
Deadlock was as silent as ever, but a bit of uncertainty was sliding into his one-eyed stares.
Rung made no attempt to fill the silence. Unscrewing a bottle of paint, he began rubbing it onto his plating with wide, practiced swipes of a painting cloth. He had already been half-covered with it, and it was a nice color, so why not?
Rung looked up; Deadlock looked away, wetting his upper lip.
"That's Earth stuff. That's Earth language."
"It's English, yes."
Deadlock stared at him suspiciously. Rung could understand his surprise. Most Autobots wouldn't be caught dead using a product manufactured by organics. But Rung was more pragmatic. Organics had their uses, like everything else. Everything in its place.
"Who are you really?"
"I'm a psychiatrist like I told you, Deadlock. I'm a therapist."
"Don't need one. I'm not crazy."
"Anyone can benefit from introspection. I'm here to help you."
Deadlock gave a short, ugly laugh and his injured eye flared for an instant. "Yeah right, and I'm a microscope. 'Bots don't help 'Cons."
"Most of my patients are Autobots, but there's no reason why I can't help you too." He paused a moment. "That's why I requested that you be transferred from Prowl's care to mine."
Deadlock's clawed fingers dug into the arms of the chair. "You think I'm dumb? You think good cop, bad cop is gonna work on me? Prowl didn't get nothin' out of me," he snarled, "and you won't either. I'm a 'Con through an' through. I'll die before giving up—" He snapped his mouth shut abruptly.
"There's no need to be so coy," Rung said mildly. "You'll die before giving up the location of your base, is that what you going to say?" Deadlock didn't answer, so Rung went on. "Everyone knows Prowl was looking for the location of a secret Autobot base. A haven for your elite. But it's not a subject that particularly interests me."
"Yeah, right. Fragging liar. You 'Bots are all the same."
Again, Rung pushed down a slight feeling of hurt. Of course he could understand why Deadlock would think that, considering his perspective. It was understandable.
And Rung's job was to understand.
Tactfully, he changed to subject. "I've read through your files, Deadlock. I'm sorry you had to deal with Prowl. His methods can be . . ." He paused. "Overzealous."
"Overzealous," Deadlock repeated. His laughter was scornful, if a tad shaky too.
Rung gave him a pitying look, but he felt a pleased smugness pooling in his spark. How right he'd been to steal him from Prowl's grasp. As if that fool would have achieved anything anyway. He'd told Prowl that this one wouldn't break.
Well, the interrogator had had his go; now it was Rung's turn to try his own talents.
He took a cube of energon off the warmer and poured each of them a cup.
"I understand, Deadlock." He smiled pleasantly and pushed the cup into the Decepticon's clawed hand. "More than you know."